About Pineal Tumors
The pineal gland lies deep within the brain and is responsible for making melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. There are different types of pineal tumors, which vary in symptoms and aggressiveness. These tumors represent about one percent of brain tumors and may be benign or malignant. A doctor will recommend appropriate treatment based on the individual’s condition and health history. Potential pineal tumor treatments include chemotherapy, fractionated radiotherapy surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery at a Gamma Knife center.
Pineal Tumor Development
Pineal gland tumors occur more frequently in adolescents and young adults but can occur at any age. There are different types of pineal tumors, including:
- Gliomas: namely astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas
- Germ Cell Tumors: the most common tumor of the pineal region, can be benign (germinoma, teratomas) or malignant (including endodermal sinus tumors, embryonal cell tumors, choriocarcinomas) depending on the type of the tumor
- Pineal Cell Tumors: originate directly from the pineal gland, unlike germ cell tumors; these include:
- Pineocytoma: slow-growing, benign grade II tumor
- Pineoblastoma: aggressive, cancerous form of a pineal tumor (malignant)
- Mixed pineal tumor: combination of both, sharing characteristics of both pineal cell tumors
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Pineal Tumors
The pineal tumor symptoms some individuals experience are mostly a result of the tumor pressing on an area of the brain. Possible symptoms include:
- Memory issues
- Vision problems
If a doctor suspects a pineal tumor based on the patient’s symptoms, he or she may order diagnostic imaging, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A biopsy may be necessary to confirm which type of pineal tumor the patient has.
Treatment of Pineal Tumors
The treatment a doctor recommends will depend on the type of pineal tumor the patient diagnosed with, its aggressiveness and location, as well as the patient’s personal health condition. Potential pineal tumor treatments include:
- Stereotactic Radiosurgery: Using advanced technology, such as the Leksell Gamma Knife®Icon™, a focused beam of radiation is delivered directly to the tumor without harming surrounding healthy tissues, in an outpatient setting.
- Fractionated Radiotherapy: Low levels of radiation are delivered to a focused area around the glioma over many treatments, effectively shrinking the tumor.
- Pineal Tumor Surgery: Surgical removal of all or part of the tumor is sometimes necessary and may be followed by radiation therapy to prevent recurrence.
- Chemotherapy: Some types of pineal tumors respond well to chemotherapy medicines.